There are many traditions we in our modern societies have forgotten – but a business mentorship is perhaps the closest thing we have to the guilds and apprenticeships of yesteryear. Its appeal is timeless.

What mentors offer

Mentors offer a variety of benefits – professional and personal. For one, mentors give valuable insight and advice at critical decision points in your career. They can spell out different paths you could take, and help you anticipate a situation they’ve been in before so that you’re not going in blind, such as an interview, a presentation, or a complex assignment.

For entrepreneurs and startups especially, the landscape can at times look cold and lonely – it’s good to have someone you can ring up on a weeknight and check in on how things are going.

A mentor is also a great person to take a step back with and talk with about broader industry movements – someone to sit down with and navel-gaze on future directions of the industry, emerging trends, and the possible impact of decisions made by big industry players. It may be from a quick coffee with your mentor that a great idea of how to streamline a particularly painful process emerges, or an exciting opportunity for new business appears.

Another big benefit of a mentor is networking – mentors can make the introductions or give the references which will shape your career moving forward. A good mentor could even cue up the next opportunity for you – and will always be looking out to work with you.

It’s not all just one-directional – being a mentor is a fulfilling and contributive act, a way to achieve a greater sense of professional purpose, and useful in understanding how to nurture junior staff.

Finding a mentor

Most professionals would like a mentor of some kind, but a large majority can’t find one. The truth is that mentors often hide in plain sight.

It could be a professor from uni, an alumna from your school, a former boss or line manager – a mentor is someone who you naturally gravitate toward as a leader, but mutually, someone who sees potential and talent in you, and genuinely cares about your success.

You can also often find mentors through incubator programs or co-working spaces in your local city.

These features are key to a successful mentorship. Learn how to identify them in a relationship you have with one of your seniors, or conversely, a junior, and cultivate it.

Ultimately, a mentorship is not something which can be forced. If it’s going to happen it will happen naturally throughout the course of your career.